Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not the Purrfect Gift!

Blondie here! Hope all have managed to finish their Christmas cards, shopping, baking and are now enjoying the wonderful festivities of the Season!

The Blonde One, after a two week jaunt to Paris, is madly scrambling to get caught up in her mad whirlwind of Christmas. To some, I am known as “The Christmas Princess” or “The Tinsel Angel” and to those who are less indulgent of my borderline obsession with Christmas (ok, perhaps not so borderline), “The Christmas Nazi.” Ok yes, I measure and space out the greens for the railing perfectly; have a diagram and measuring stick for picking out the perfect tree; plan the most decorative way to wrap my gifts (Yes, Virginia, presentation counts in far more than just plating one’s Christmas dinner!); have a tote full of “emergency gifts” in case someone brings an extra guest; plan out & cook numerous seven course meals; cover every available inch with decorations of some type; hang such an obscene number of lights that PSE&G sends me a “thank you” note and chocolates every December; and bake cookies until my skin tastes like sugar (or so I’ve been told by my cousin’s strange child who has “Licking Issues.”) I adore Christmas and all the cheesy, sparking, fattening traditions that go with it. Today, however, all my good (manic) Christmas cheer has been dampened by one Christopher Nolan who knocked off my sugar plum halo with a big ole Bat-a-rang of coal… or, more precisely, a Catwoman of coal.

“What,” you gasp, “surely that is blasphemy coming from a self proclaimed Batman fanatic! That trailer knocked my socks off! It’s going to be the best Batman movie ever!” To which I respond with a resounding,” Bah humbug!” Yes, my candy cane darlings, I am one of the crazy comic fans who adores her inked Batman and is unwilling to hop on the “Christopher Nolan is the best Batman director ever” sleigh. While you pull on some new socks (please indulge me and choose the ones
with Snoopy Santas on them) I shall endeavor to enlighten you as to why this highly anticipated HD movie trailer sunk poor Cindy Lou Who’s Christmas spirits down to the bottom of her twinkly toed Who shoes.

Upon repeated viewings (one must be thorough!) of the trailer for next year's The Dark Knight Rises once again the disappointment I felt upon hearing Ann Hathaway was to be cast as Catwoman (my very favorite DC character) rises from the desperately tampered down ashes to angrily hiss and lash out against such a poor choice. It is not a dislike of Ms. Hathaway, indeed she would have made a fine Barbara Gordon, but the total incongruity of her abilities as an actress with the requirements of the character. Just because she can act out the lines doesn’t mean she’s a good choice to play the part. Being a good actress (which she is) and being the right actress for the part are two vastly different things.

First off, Ms. Hathaway has some iconic boots to fill, namely Michelle Pfeiffer and Julie Newmar's kitten heels. And unlike past ladies who donned the cat suit (Halle Barry’s migraine inducing performance aside), there's nothing particularly feline about Ms. Hathaway, not in her adorable face or gait or intonation, even when she’s playing a darker character (i.e. Rachel Getting Married.) Her intonation, as we saw at last year’s unfortunate Oscar debacle, is less villainous than vapid, more charming than disarming. And though she's proven her chops in a variety of genres there's this kind of lovable goofiness to her that's more doglike than catlike. (And as someone who loves dogs, that statement is not intended as a slam. I’m not saying her appearance is at all doglike. Her manner and disposition are the issue, not her universally acknowledged attractiveness.)

She is naturally sunny and slightly goofy, a strange mix of awkwardness and beauty. One moment she's clumsy, the next she's elegant. It has nothing to do with her range; she just doesn't exude sensuality, despite attempts in movies such as Get Smart or Love and Other Drugs. Ms. Hathaway simply doesn’t have that sexy edgy vibe that vixens such as past Catwoman Ms. Pfeiffer did. Catwoman needs to ooze sensuality and move with a feline grace even when grocery shopping. Essentially they needed a Meagan Fox, but one with acting ability. As I’ve perused various boards and threads I’ve seen some awesome, interesting and gross names thrown out there as to who might have made a fantastic Catwoman. Among them are: Eva Green; Jennifer Garner; Kate Beckinsale; Julianne Hough; Megan Fox; Angelina Jolie; Charlize Theron; Rachel Weisz and, I kid you not, Cher!

Now I’m aware Nolan made two very well received Batman films, even though I thought The Dark Knight was somewhat lacking in action, too much angst and exposition. (And don’t lecture me on how angst and The Bat go hand in hand; I’m well aware of my boy’s penchant for brooding.) Frankly, if not for Heath Ledger’s performance the movie would not have received half of the numerous positive reviews it did. I urge you to go back and read those initial reviews; they all revolved around Ledger’s performance and not the movie as a whole. While on our way to a wedding, a friend and I discussed at length whether or not Ledger would have received the accolades he did in his role as the Joker if not for his untimely demise. At the time of this discussion the movie had not been released so no one had seen it yet. We did, however, conclude that the performance, for better or worse, would never be judged solely on the merits of Ledger’s acting abilities. The baggage of death is not easily discarded, especially by one so young. Look at James Dean, the unknown, the “could have beens” and “should have beens” are always an intoxicating mystery. I know many will disagree with my statement that Heath Ledger saved an otherwise “meh” movie and perhaps the protesters will even wear Grinch socks in protest but it’s the truth. When people (especially those who are not well versed in comic lore or anything else that appeals to those of us who make annual pilgrimages to cons) discuss The Dark Knight, listen in and most of the time it is about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker and how unfortunate it is that we’ll never be treated to its like again.

But I digress. Supporters of the casting of Ms. Hathaway need better reasons than simply “I trust Christopher Nolan on this because no one thought Heath Ledger would be good as the Joker either and he was the best!” Here’s the thing, Ms. Hathaway is not Heath Ledger. Just because Mr. Ledger was successful in his role doesn’t mean she will meet with the same success because the same director cast both parts. Look at Nolan’s past female casting for a moment. He casting of Katie Holmes was nearly disastrous. By far she is the weakest part of Batman Begins. Ditto for the far more talented but equally miscast Maggie Gyllenhaal. Mr. Ledger was a great choice because he completely disappeared into his role. Ms. Hathaway, like Ms. Holmes and most of the other Hollyweird starlets up for this role, always play slightly altered variations of themselves. More often than not she too falls in with those actresses who are cast in anything and everything, even when they don't fit the part on paper in the least (i.e. Katherine Heigl).

But the final problem with The Dark Knight Rises, and this is significant if you know anything about the character, is whether or not (and from the trailer it appears not) the complexity and nuanced relationships Catwoman has with Batman, the police, Holly and everyone else in that world can be properly played out by Ms. Hathaway. The Cat is a natural chameleon, albeit an extremely sultry one, and her ever present shades of femme fatale vary with each relationship. Michelle Pfeiffer understood that and even when her Selina Kyle was the cowed secretary, she still conveyed a sense of tangibly sensuality simmering just beneath the surface.

Christopher Nolan, who claims this is the final installment of his Batman series, can't do powerful, independent sexy female characters, all of which is essential to the character of Catwoman. Nolan’s stories are cerebral parables about men and their choices. Women in his films tend to be butch or asexual (respectively, Hillary Swank in Insomnia and Ellen Paige in Inception). Nominally sexy characters, like Marion Cotillard in Inception or Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige, are treated almost as mere plot ties or eye candy to male viewers. They're gorgeous, but they're buttoned-up afterthoughts. Catwoman, on the other hand, was specifically created way back in 1940 for the purpose of adding sex appeal to Batman’s world. She was made to be seen as a significant foe in the forefront, not simply tacked on to merely raise the pulse of the reader. She’s been driving the big fella crazy for over 70 years now, take away her sexuality and her star power and you take away the very core of the character.

So my little elves, what do you think? Can Ms. Hathaway pull it off? Have my doubts rubbed off on you or were you on the same page as Blondie from the start? Given the choice, who would you have cast as Catwoman? Sound off below and may your Christmas be Purrrfect!


  1. My personal thought on this is that Ann Hathaway is not the best choice for Catwoman. I've always felt that Catwoman should be predatory, in more ways than one. I don't think Ann can pull off either the dangerous grace or the raw sexuality needed for the character.

    Undoubtedly I'll still watch the movie. And who knows, maybe she'll surprise us. But I wouldn't put money on it.

  2. I agree with PinballWizard. My all time favorite Catwoman is Michelle Pfeiffer.. there's something about the way she moved and her tone of voice in character that made me have a total girl crush on her. I like Ann Hathaway.. generally.. but I still see her as a silly girl then a woman and silly girl just doesn't fit Catwoman. I do hope however that she surprises us with her performance and am eager to see my favorite comic come to life.

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  4. Blondie here (again!) Couldn't agree more with P.Wizard and Miishka but I'm not holding my breath to be surprised by Ms. Hathaway interpretation of our beloved Catwoman. (Tangent: Since I'm blonde, if I hold my breath and turn blue in the face does that turn me into Smurfette?)

    In the interest of gathering opinions other than mine (since most of you are being shy and not posting your opinions, tsk, tsk!) I took a poll of all the thousands of cats I am acquainted with (and yes, Blondie is one of three people on the planet who is fluent in ALL dialects of CAT. Two points to whomever guesses the identity of the other two individuals fluent in CAT) and collected their reactions to this bit of casting. This lovely Russian Marchioness’ (yes, the feline world is big into monarchies and aristocracies) reaction best summed up the thoughts of the Feline World regarding the casting of Miss Hathaway:

  5. I would only contend that the notability of the roles in a Batman movie are such that the actors are playing archetypes, more so than any specific incarnation of the Bat or Cat. As such, she may be able to bring out nuances of the character that are there but are not noted. As Heath Ledger was a different Joker than Jack Nickleson, as Niel Gaiman was able to reinvent the Sandman... it's incumbent upon us as the viewers and readers to give her a chance... and if she's not good, then indeed we can savage her, but let Miss Hathaway try to prove her mettle.